7 tips for better home videos

It’s 100 degrees here in New York today. Hopefully you’re at the beach.

I’m not. But I was last weekend and I saw this young couple taking video of their toddler son running around on the hot sand. They were running after him, jumping up and down. With the flip camera. In there hands. Yeah, I guess it was cute if you’re into that sort of thing. More importantly, that poor kid’s gonna get sea sick watching his own home videos of his first day at the beach.









I came from a very pro-home video household and have consumed many, usually at 7:45 am on July 25th, the exact time and date of my birth. Only as an only child can this vaguely narcissistic practice be sustained. As a result of this consumption, I can tell you that there are a few things to keep in mind when shooting home movies (or any video for that matter):

  1. Think of your flip camera, iPhone camera, whatever, as a still camera and find something interesting to frame. Look in the LCD screen, aim, frame, and press record.
  2. Limit the length of your clips to 30 seconds or less.  All those short, well-intentioned shots add up to a more interesting video once played back one after another.
  3. Shoot people! Nothing is more boring than a video with no people. If the scenery is really great, throw someone in the frame and have them tell us why.
  4. You can linger on a blade of grass or a fluffy cloud, but keep these clips short and sweet and as artistic as possible. A mountain may be beautiful in real life, but on a 3 inch screen, a video just doesn’t do it justice. That’s a shot for the IMAX, not you. So throw someone in the frame and make it more meaningful.
  5. Don’t rely too heavily on the ‘zoom’ function. This decreases the camera’s image quality resulting in grainy footage and shaky movements regardless of stability. Instead, to get a closer shot, physically move closer to your subject. You’ll also get better audio this way.
  6. Stay with an image and let it move through the frame. No need to follow your kid around. Let her walk through the frame and then pick up the shot from another angle. If you need to pan, pan slow!
  7. Most importantly,  use your non-shooting hand for support by cupping it under the elbow holding the camera. This will give you the extra support you need to move the camera smoothly.

I’m a big advocate of video since it gives us the opportunity to show, not just tell. This works for grants, non-profit work, academia, home movies or random acts of entertainment. Like this video shot by a Sea Turtle. The water proof camera washed ashore after a diver lost it in Aruba. The turtle turned on the camera and somehow began shooting video. Not the best home video ever shot (I’ll chalk it up to the fact that he had no elbows to cup in support) but it’s clearly DIY and from a point of view we rarely see. Media representation for all!

Or this home video made by an HBO filmmaker getting pulled over by cops in the rain for not riding in the bike lane. After going viral, I swear this video changed the number of NYPD cops out patrolling for bikers to ticket. Yours truly is still contesting a $130 cycle ticket!

And finally, this home video of a kitten (I know, I know but it’s worth it) having a bad dream.

Personally, I can’t wait to see generational home video archived on YouTube so kids can hear stories from their grandparents and their kids can watch those movies, too. So what are you documenting these days and do you plan to post it somewhere?


4 thoughts on “7 tips for better home videos

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hej Pop Culture Pirate. This is a non sequiter to pop culture pirate. but you know me. THat’s just the way I am. So Happy Birthday Elisa!!
    Love, Adrienne

    • That’s great. Are you uploading them anywhere or just keeping them on your computer? Also, do you ever plan to edit them. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually gone back and edited home videos! But the end result was pretty awesome.

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